Fishers fear bay closure as rumours persist –

Fishers fear bay closure as rumours persist Published:  11 June, 2008

SOUTH WEST of England fishermen today voiced alarm that Lyme Bay may be about to close to scallop and trawler fishing.

They said that this morning the Defra Fisheries Secretary, Rodney Anderson, had refused to deny “strong and persistent” rumours that the Minister, Jonathan Shaw, is about to make the move.

And South West Inshore Fishermen’s Association Chairman, Nick Prust, said that for about three weeks, the rumour mill has been working overtime with many officials advising the industry to prepare for a closure announcement.

He went on: “Yesterday we heard that June 19 is the chosen date and Rodney Anderson refused to deny either the date or the fact about closure.

“We are all finding it incredibly difficult to make ends meet at the moment with the most exceptionally high price demanded for fishing vessel fuel. Couple that to costs now incurred routinely by the under 10m sector to rent fish quotas, the inshore fishing sector is in dire straits.

“In the face of such ongoing onslaught I cannot bring myself to believe the rumours that have been growing stronger over several weeks.

“That the Minister, Jonathan Shaw is about to cut-off what is the lifeblood of the inshore sector, is a tragedy.

“The scallop and trawler fisheries found within the 60 square miles zone close to Lyme Regis are essential for the inshore economy, yielding around £3 millions yearly.

“We have been on ‘Death Row’ since early 2006, when the Wildlife Trusts and Natural England (then English Nature) lobbied for Lyme Bay to be closed. We believe the Minister is about to cave in simply because of pressure from the environmentalist lobby. They have threatened him with infraction proceedings if Pink Sea Fans are not given total and, we believe, disproportionate protection.

“In 2006, the then Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, made the right decision, to allow the creation, by fishermen, of four closed areas of Reef habitat that trebled the area they had previously given up. At that time the fishermen agreed to those areas being given statutory protection, (Option A of a consultation earlier this year). “The local Sea Fisheries Committees, Devon and Southern, both argued alongside the industry and in favour of this status quo solution.

“Sadly, however, the environmental lobby appears now to have won and our local fishermen must pay with their livelihoods.

“SWIFA members will meet on Thursday June 19 the Cobb, Lyme Regis. “Boats will converge from across the region, from Falmouth in the west to Shoreham in the east. Fishermen and their families will then consider the Minister’s announcement and decide their next actions, including whether to dismantle their Association and sever contacts with officials. They may decide to launch a legal challenge for Judicial Review. The latter would be a very costly alternative that the industry can ill afford in this time of lowest ever profit forecasts.

“It is almost certainty that inshore fishers will cease to co-operate with MFA officials and other agencies and projects, such as Finding Sanctuary, Fishermap and the Inshore Vessel Monitoring.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Minister has allowed his officials to drip-feed leaks of this impending announcement over several weeks. At any time since making up his mind, he could have picked up the phone to explain his thoughts and motivation. For us to find out by whispers and innuendo is unacceptable.

“Further statements will be issued by SWIFA once we have the text of the announcement and of the Instrument the Minister will use to bring down the axe upon this valuable inshore fishing sector.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.